Have we lost moral moorings?
Amid the mental anguish and physical pain forced on those suffering in Boston, those of us nationally and globally are thrown into unfamiliar and disturbing lines of thought. There is no understanding fully what drives any person to find it right and purposeful to so damage, maim and destroy the innocence of others and, indeed, innocents.
However, as I listened over and over to the identical news feeds I felt again some thoughts I have felt since we started needing to call fundamentalist Muslims “Islamists.”
These two disaffected young men, one older, religious by his own characterization of himself, and a younger, perhaps simply impressionable brother, chose to make miserable and finite the lives of folks they didn’t know. One statement, reported only once as I surfed the channels, stood out. The elder, a married man with children, was quoted as writing, “I don’t have any American friends. Here there are no boundaries. Anything is allowed.” This is a free rendering of what I heard but sums up his comment. And yet those who knew him thought nothing of the sort.
Ever since 9/11 I have pondered about the contrast between our open, increasingly freer, deregulated way of life and traditional sometimes patriarchal Muslim mores. I have often felt our Christian values have somehow slipped into permissive humanism, a desire to never say no, a tendency to allow anything without comment. I am not writing about legal issues long overdue to make right longtime wrongs.
But do we really look analytically at our movies, television shows and entertainment and Internet? They become more and more, dare I say, shocking. Does anything shock anymore? We have developed a very high tolerance of violence, sexual explicitness, vulgarity, commonness in the stated aim of realism in the “arts,” unacceptably high for some of us.
So I feel there are two huge tragedies in this past week. There is the glaringly obvious horrid destruction of citizens cut down while hoping to enjoy a happy day of running and cheering on their friends. It is more difficult to admit the subtler, less sympathetic tragedy of the many young people who, in an excess of religious fervor and self-righteous disgust lash out at a world they don’t admire or understand, against a world where the mores are all they cannot believe in.
How sad those young lives do not have the discipline to do something purposeful. Being a useful citizen is so much slower, and sometimes very depressing, but in the end it accomplishes good things.
And as one last thought, why are our New England churches emptying, lying fallow, not speaking out against the real trash that is in so many aspects of our national culture. We truly need to decide if we might be somehow responsible for the unacceptable, unpardonable, but slightly understandable actions of these wasted lives.
IDA MAE JOHNSON